BHS Class of 2013 leaves its mark in volunteer hours

By: Robin Ruehlen | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published June 12, 2013

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — When it comes to community service, Bloomfield Hills Schools seniors go big.

Members of the Class of 2013 at Andover and Lahser high schools logged 39,115 hours of community service in 2012-13, which equals out to $289,451 in volunteer service at the state’s current minimum wage. It also marks a 21 percent increase in hours from the Class of 2012.

Community Service Coordinator Gary Swain said all BHS students are required to complete a minimum of 40 hours of community service throughout their high school career, but he added that many students choose to do hundreds of hours more on their own.

“They can start working on their hours as soon as they finish eighth grade, and must have them completed by the end of the first semester of senior year,” he said.

“The most I’ve ever seen a student complete in high school, in the seven years I’ve worked here, is 1,186 hours.”

Students take on assignments at nonprofit organizations; social service and support agencies; hospitals; national, state and local parks; animal shelters and rescue organizations; and local government and religious organizations. Some of the most coveted community service opportunities include Summer in the City, Safety Town, Friendship Circle, Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan, The YES Foundation, Bottomless Toy Chest, the E.L. Johnson Nature Center and the Bowers School Farm.

Swain said he often receives comments from organizers of the events on how professional and helpful BHS students are.

“They seem amazed that students so freely give up their time to make the community a better place,” he said.

And while there are always those who are reluctant about giving up their time for free, he said, the students who go into it with open minds are the ones who come back enthused and energized by their experiences.

“There are those who volunteer in foreign countries, and even though there was a language barrier, felt fulfilled by their experience and the warmth of the local people,” he said.

“Closer to home, students who volunteer in Detroit always tell me about the people who walk up to them and thank them for making their area bright and beautiful by the mural they just painted.”

BHS Board of Education President Ingrid Day said the community service hours accumulated by the Class of 2013 while serving and assisting others has risen to a new level of dedication.

“Hopefully, as our students pursue being ‘architects of their futures,’ this lesson of service has taken hold and will be part and parcel with their adult life,” she said.

“I believe that every class that graduates from a Bloomfield Hills school has something special, and speaking on behalf of the entire board, we could not be more proud.”

Swain said he hopes that all BHS students will feel good about and remember their volunteer opportunities as a time they were able to make a difference in another’s life.

“I hope they realize how blessed they are for what they have and not just take it for granted,” he said.

“I hope that through volunteering, it empowers them to have a better understanding of people, the organizations they’re working with and themselves. One of my favorite quotes is, ‘What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for our community lives long after we are gone.’”